Why Am I Still Single at My Age?
by Kathy Batesel
This article is intended for people who are in their 30s or 40s and struggling to find lasting love. It bluntly discusses the seven basic reasons that interfere with relationship success:
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Low Frustration Tolerance
- Not Knowing What You Want
- Difficult Personality Traits
- Psychological & Emotional Barriers
- Specific Behaviors
- Physical Condition
(When I Don't Want to Be)
Many people wish they had a great relationship but find it hard to find one. They ask, "Why am I still single in my 30s?" "Why haven't I found my Mr. Right?" "Where's the woman who will be my life mate?"
If you're single, either because you've given up on relationships altogether or because you haven't found the "right" one, I have some bad news for you. The problem can only be solved by you.
I don't mean that to be offensive. You're fine just as you are, but what you're doing isn't working if you want intimacy and keep finding yourself lonely. Thousands upon thousands of people feel frustrated and alone because they haven't figured out how to meet a great partner and make it work. But the first step to solving this dilemma is to take off the blinders and acknowledge that if you're in your 30s or 40s and still (unwillingly) single, it's because of something you're doing and not because the whole rest of the world is to blame.
So let's take a look at what might be interrupting your path to happy couplehood.
Is There Something Wrong with Me?
You may have asked yourself this question, it's not that something is wrong with you so much as you simply have a conflict that is producing a result that's not what you want, and that you need to identify and remove the conflict.
There are seven categorical reasons that people are unable to find and enjoy long-term, committed relationships. These same reasons can prevent harmony for people who do find relationships, too.
These reasons won't completely prohibit a relationship from developing, but they will bring about disharmony and cause relationships to end instead of allowing them to blossom into rewarding partnerships that last for life.
- Unrealistic expectations
- Low frustration tolerance
- Not understanding and defining what you really want in a partner
- Difficult personality (Controlling, dramatic, passive-aggressive)
- Psychological issues (fears, mental illness, emotional unavailabilty/inner conflict)
- Undesirable behaviors
- Physical attributes (overweight, poor hygiene)
Let's take a look at each of these separately.
How often have you felt like love is a letdown?
People may have unrealistic expectations of what a relationship "should" be, or they can have unlikely expectations of other people.
If you find yourself wondering, "Is this all there is? What happened to the constant affection, the deep discussions, and the hot sex?" After a while, you end relationships because even though you love your partner, you're no longer in love with him or her. This is what happens when people have unrealistic expectations of what a relationship is supposed to be like.
Solution: Pay attention to people who have been in stable relationships for at least ten years. Ask them about their successes and challenges, and adopt their philosophies as your own. It takes a lot of practice to fully believe others' viewpoints when they disagree with ours, but if you remind yourself that they're succeeding where you haven't, it'll be easier.
A quick look at online dating profiles reveals when people expect more from another person than is reasonable. The table below shows some examples that are easy to identify, but often our beliefs are subtle - so ingrained we may not recognize that others might have equally valid, but different values.
What is said or thought:
The expectation that it reveals:
"My children come first."
"I expect you to let me neglect you sometimes."
Also applies to work, hobbies, etc.
"Don't hurt or leave me."
"I expect you to hurt or leave me."
This trains people to see you as having less value.
"If you loved me, you would...."
"I expect you to demonstrate love my way, not yours."
Compatible people don't have this problem.
"I only date people who love the outdoors, the same kind of music, between 30-35 years old, and who are athletic health food fans."
"I am rigid and inflexible about small things because I expect everyone to be inferior to me."
Some things *should* be inflexible, but no one person will meet a fantasy.
Solution: Develop more realistic expectations of people by finding someone trustworthy who isn't afraid to tell you that you're being unreasonable, and then believe them. Practice accepting things that you don't want to whenever you can do so without hurting your self-esteem or placing yourself in physical, emotional, or financial danger.
Qualities in a Partner: Knowing What You Want
The flip side of unrealistic expectations about a partner is not having a clear image of the traits you need to see in order for a relationship to work out.
Many serial monogamists think, "I'll see where it leads" when it comes to a new relationship, only to find it fizzling after they've ignored signs of incompatibility. Whether they dump a partner or get dumped themselves, the end result is the same - they tolerated traits that didn't jibe with what they want and need in a long-term relationship or marriage.
Solution: Create a list of "MUST HAVE" characteristics, a list of "MUST NOT HAVE" characteristics, and a third list of "WOULD BE NICE IF" traits. Each list should have no more than six traits on it. (If they do, read the above section on unrealistic expectations once more!) Adjust the list as necessary and only date people who meet all the criteria of the MUST lists.
Our Thoughts Affect Our Feelings and Actions
Low Frustration Tolerance
Relationships are grand, but sometimes they suck. You may wish you could sleep in, but you are duty bound to visit the in-laws tomorrow. You've said the same thing a thousand times, and your partner still doesn't "get it." You're too busy with work, the gym, and other things to deal with your partner's nagging to spend more time together.
The best relationships have ongoing problems that bring up frustrations again and again. Experts say there are about seven areas of disagreement within any relationship - even the ones that last for years between two happy people!
If you find yourself feeling stressed, sneaking, rebelling, or thinking "I'm not gonna take this!" on a regular basis, you might have a low frustration tolerance that interferes with your ability to maintain a relationship. One clue to help distinguish whether your response is a healthy reaction to a bad relationship or if you actually have an inability to tolerate normal pressures that contributes to your relationships turning bad is to look at other times you feel that way. People with a low frustration tolerance will find themselves feeling the same kinds of emotions about events at work, with friends, and with other situations. This response isn't confined to their romantic lives.
Solution: Because low frustration tolerance can be related to poor self-esteem or inadequate coping skills, it may be necessary to seek professional counseling to eradicate the effects that interfere with your happiness. In the short run, try using affirmations such as, "I'm strong and competent, and I don't have to let my frustration defeat me" when negative feelings arise.
Two Answers to "Why Are You Single" that Drive People Away
At some point, we've all said it. "I want someone with a good personality." What determines whether a personality is good or not? For most of us, anyone who is compatible with us will seem to have a great personality!
The problem comes when we are unable to evaluate how we affect other people. If we have a personality trait that's keeping us single, we've probably heard about it, but refused to acknowledge the truth of the criticisms we were told. If you've heard comments like these, you've got a personality trait that can prevent you from having the kind of relationship you're seeking:
- "You're never happy with anything I do."
- "You're too controlling."
- "You play mind games with me."
- "You always have to be right."
- "You don't respect me or care how I feel."
- "You don't listen or pay attention to me."
- "You're too shy for your own good."
Behaviors that are controlling, introduce drama, or that display a lack of regard for your partner are like a relationship's death warrant! They start out small, but over time they become insurmountable and destroy relationships. It might take just a few weeks, a couple of hours, or many years before others will decide it's just not worthwhile to have a relationship with you over these kinds of behaviors.
Solution: Consider common themes that you've been accused of doing in the past, and acknowledge them as valid truths about your behavior. You may be able to find progress by practicing techniques found in self-help books like the ones shown here, or you may need to find a mental health professional who can help you identify the behaviors on an ongoing basis and learn new ways to address things that trigger these kinds of responses from you.
Example: Distance - Pursuer Patterns of Relating
Psychological issues can be big or small, and can manifest in many ways. At one extreme, serious psychological problems like addictions, mental illness, chronic depression, self-sabotage, or anxiety disorders can be an ever-present influence that can challenge our ability to maintain a relationship.
Other psychological influences may not meet diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder yet still affect our ability to be a good partner day in and day out. Emotional baggage from past relationships, fears learned in childhood, and inner conflicts or behavior habits can drive a wedge between people and prevent them from celebrating deep emotional intimacy together.
Solution: Avoid getting caught up in superficial arguments and instead focus on the reasons why they occur. You may discover that your behavior and your partners' behaviors have created unhealthy dynamics that have been repeated several times. Most people aren't capable of addressing these things on their own simply because of the way our brains are wired. Professional counseling can help address deep-rooted beliefs better than self-help books or self-guidance.
Use Your Strengths to Attract the Right Person
While psychological matters can lead us to have behaviors that are seen as odd or undesirable (do you still avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk?), some of our behaviors may be unappealing to others and drive them away from us.
A specific example that comes to my mind involves a man I went on a single date with. As we drove, he greeted grocery stores. "Hi, Piggly Wiggly!" he waved. When it happened again, "Hello, Hen House!" and then a third time, I knew I wouldn't be dating him again. I interpreted his behavior as a sign that he was extremely immature for a 40-something man, and I wanted a partner, not a child.
Most behavioral issues aren't quite as clear. They can be quite difficult to identify, especially when we're the ones with the offensive actions. Here are some common ones, though:
- Failing to reciprocate another person's kindnesses
- Making statements that reveal undesirable traits (hostility toward opposite sex, anger, control issues, drama, or weakness)
- Revealing too much, too soon
- Not being open after a reasonable period of time (aka "trust issues!")
- Exaggerating, lying, sneaking, or snooping
- Demonstrating disrespect in any way
Solution: Practice becoming more self aware and changing the offending behaviors. Ask trusted friends or a counselor to help you evaluate your own behavior, and avoid feeling defensive when you discover that you're doing something that is undesirable. After all, you're learning how to be the best person you can, and there's plenty to be said in your favor for doing that!
Physical Health and Appearance
Go ahead and blast me if you dislike what I'm about to say, but it's the truth:
Overweight, obese, dirty, or unkempt isn't attractive to a high percentage of people. Sure, you might find someone who will tolerate that you don't brush your teeth in the morning and at night, but if you have a mouthful of rotting teeth, it will limit your appeal.
Yes, sometimes there is a biological reason for being overweight or having greasy hair or smelly armpits, but we're not talking about how to justify a less-than-desirable appearance. We're talking about what can interfere with finding long-term, committed relationships, and appearance definitely falls into the categories that can keep a person single!
There are some valid reasons for people to avoid dating and commitment with people who don't take adequate care of their bodies and appearance. It can affect their ability to show affection when they don't feel attraction, for one thing. For another, they may be reluctant to get involved with someone who may now or later have extensive health problems.
Solution: Pay attention to normal hygiene practices, like using soap to shower daily, brushing your teeth regularly, maintaining an attractive hairstyle, and wearing makeup if and when it's appropriate. Dress in form-flattering clothing. Adhere to a sound diet and exercise regimen. Make all of these things a standard part of your life, rather than something you're doing temporarily.
Stay Single or Find Love, But Be the "YOU" You Want to Be
If you heard your inner voice object to something you read above, there's probably a good reason for it - it most likely has applied or still applies to you. Each of the obstacles to love I described are things you can change if you want to, but it's perfectly acceptable if you'd prefer not to.
You're entitled to have your own values and your own priorities. You might value having a loving relationship as more important to you than protecting your trust issues and decide to change your trust issues so you can attain the more important value. But if you decide that being just the way you are is more important than finding enduring love, there isn't a thing wrong with your choice!
In the end, you are the only person who wakes up and falls asleep with you every day of your life, so be your own best friend. Cheers!